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Ann Epidemiol. 1992 May;2(3):177-94.

A dose-response analysis and quantitative assessment of lung cancer risk and occupational cadmium exposure.

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Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Bethesda, MD.


We performed a quantitative assessment of the risk of lung cancer from exposure to cadmium based on a retrospective cohort mortality study of cadmium-exposed workers. The study population consisted of white male workers who were employed for at least 6 months at a cadmium smelter between January 1, 1940, and December 31, 1969, and who were first employed at the facility on or after January 1, 1926. The study findings were analyzed using a modified life-table analysis to estimate standardized mortality ratios (SMRs), and various functional forms (i.e., exponential, power, additive relative rate, and linear) of Poisson and Cox proportional hazards models to examine the dose-response relationship. Estimates of working lifetime risk (45 years) were developed using an approach that corrects for competing causes of death. An excess in mortality from lung cancer was observed for the entire cohort (SMR = 149, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 95, 222). Mortality from lung cancer was greatest among non-Hispanic workers (SMR = 211, 95% CI = 131, 323), among workers in the highest cadmium exposure group (SMR = 272, 95% CI = 123, 513), and among workers with 20 or more years since the first exposure (SMR = 161, 95% CI = 100, 248). A statistically significant dose-response relationship was evident in nearly all of the regression models evaluated. Based on our analyses, the lifetime excess lung cancer risk at the current Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard for cadmium fumes of 100 micrograms/m3 is approximately 50 to 111 lung cancer deaths per 1000 workers exposed to cadmium for 45 years.

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